The Thank You Letter is Done...Now What?

 It seems like it’s the end, but it’s not.


A gift comes in. You enter the data. The Thank You letter gets printed and mailed and just like that, you’re done. Whew! On to the next thing, right?


Nope. Not even close.


You’re not done yet.


The Thank You letter is not the end of the gift. It’s actually the beginning of the next gift.


Hmmm. So what happens next?


Most donors want to know what happened with their money. So, a logical next step would be to give your donor an update after a short time to let them know what you did with their gift. You could do this with another letter or an email, a phone call, a personal visit, or something else. Figure out what works for you and makes sense for the donor.


Another idea is to have your Executive Director, Development Director, Program Director, Board Chair, a volunteer, or even someone receiving services write a handwritten Thank You note to send to the donor.  It doesn’t have to be long, just heartfelt and sincere. This will stand out from the rest of their mail (when’s the last time you got anything handwritten in the mail?) and will mean a LOT to your Baby Boomer donors. Quick tip – use your best penmanship. It’s not so helpful if the writer has the handwriting of a serial killer (had an Executive Director who wrote like that).


Even more personal and meaningful is a personal Thank You call. Have someone from your organization pick up the phone and call the donor to say thank you for their recent gift.  You might be surprised at how special this can make a donor feel!  Remember, we really want the donor to feel good about their decision to give to your organization, and this may be just the ticket.


Make a point to personally say thank you and give the donor an update the next time you see them out in the community, at a meeting, or at a social event.  This kind of conversation warms the relationship and lets them know that you don’t just think about them at the office, when you need money, etc.


Could you do all these things? Sure you could. Put some time in between them so they aren’t all bunched up together – that might be awkward. If you spread them out over time, you’ll drip your gratitude out and provide a gentle feeling of satisfaction for the donor.


We never want the donor to feel like they sent their gift to a black hole, wondering what happened but never finding out. Treat them like a valued investor and communicate what’s happening.  Donors don’t usually get this kind of “inside information” so your organization will stand out from the crowd and will likely encourage them to give again.



If you’d like more ideas for thanking your donors, the Get Fully Funded system has a whole section on donor acknowledgement, including a sample Donor Acknowledgement Plan, sample Thank You letters, call scripts, and more. Get all the details at

bigstock Easy Vs Hard Way Road Sign 41401030 250x166 7 Drama Minimizing Tools Every Nonprofit Board Needs

Ideally, your Board should be made up of people who care deeply about the work your nonprofit does and are willing to give their time, talent, and treasure to see it be successful.

Unfortunately, most people who serve on nonprofit Boards don’t understand what they’ve said “yes” to.  They don’t know how Boards are supposed to work or what their role is. And in the absence of that knowledge, they do whatever looks fun or familiar, they step over boundaries, and sometimes they go rogue and cause all kinds of trouble.

Ugh. Nobody wants drama on their Board. So here are some tools you want to be sure to use to keep things running smoothly. After all, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

  1. Clear job description. Board members need to know what they’ve committed to and what they need to do to be successful. A good Board member job description includes everything from attending meetings to continuing their own education. It’s best to give them a copy to keep, and to review it annually.
  2. Board member Agreement. People like to know what’s expected of them, so give it to them in writing to eliminate confusion. A good Agreement outlines the things that you expect your Board members to do like serving on a committee, participating in fundraising events, and making a financial contribution to the organization.   Giving a potential Board member a ‘heads up’ about their responsibilities can help them make a better decision about joining your Board and get them off on the right foot to being a great Board member!
  3. Orientation and Handbook.  Once you’ve gone through the process of recruiting fantastic new Board members, get them started on the right foot with a good orientation of your nonprofit organization. Give them all the pertinent information they need to do their job, and consider putting as much as you can in writing in a Handbook that they can refer to later, since they’ll be trying to absorb a lot all at once.
  4. Up-to-Date Bylaws. Your Bylaws are the operating instructions for your nonprofit. They give your Board the rules it needs for running the organization. One item of importance is an attendance policy for your Board. This gives your Board a way to get rid of dead wood members who don’t show up.
  5. Recruitment process. Reactively recruiting new Board members can leave you with more problems than solutions. I’m sure you’ve seen it or at least heard about it – A group waits until it’s time to have new members in place and then hastily recruits friends and neighbors just to fill seats. Being proactive and having a plan to recruit the right people with the skills and talent you need can help ensure your Board is successful. When you have a process to follow, it’s easy to know who needs to do what and when to get great new Board members in place.
  6. Self evaluation. It’s up to the Board to assess themselves each year.  No one is going to come along and give your Board a grade for their performance. Annual evaluations contribute to the overall teamwork of the group and satisfaction of individual members. It points out areas where improvement is needed and sets a course of action for the coming year.
  7. Ongoing education.  Since Board members are usually only engaged in the nonprofit’s work once or twice a month (at best!), it’s easy for them to forget a lot of things. Regular education about the work of the organization and about their role and responsibility will pay off big. Consider taking 10-15 minutes at each Board meeting to provide them with the information they need to do their job well.
A thermometer topped with the word Satisfaction measures the hap

The Thank You letter often is created and sent without much thought.  It may seem to be the last step in getting a gift from a donor and a routine task that warrants little merit.  But it’s actually the first step in building a relationship. Do it well and the rewards are great. Mess it up, and you just lost your chance at keeping a valuable donor.

These letters can’t be slapped together. Purposeful and well-thought out Thank You letters communicate a lot to your donors, through the actual words and the unspoken messages you’re sending.

Make sure you are getting the most from your Thank You letter efforts with these ideas.
1.  Send it QUICK. The faster you get your Thank You letters out the door, the better. Donors want to be sure that you received their gift and a Thank You letter is the best way to let them know it arrived safely.  Shoot for 48 hours from the time you receive a gift until the time you put the Thank You letter in the mail.  If it takes you a little longer and that’s the best you can do, work with it.  Figure out what will work for your organization and put a priority on getting the letters out the door.

2.  Make it match. Instead of sending out a generic letter, customize your Thank You letter to the specific ask that was used to generate the gift.  If a gift comes to you from an appeal you sent out, then make sure your Thank You letter refers back to the story or the text in the appeal.  You may need to write several different letters that can be used for whatever you have going on.  For instance, you may want to write one letter for a special event you are working on, another one for monthly givers, and another one for donors who respond to your newsletter.  Relating the Thank You letter back to the ask is a way to let your donors know you are paying attention and that you are organized enough to use be trustworthy.

3.  Share your plans for their money. This is critical.  Make sure the donor knows how you plan to use the donation he or she just sent you. Text like “Your gift will help send 15 children to summer camp for one week” makes the process of donating more real and tangible to the donor.  They can envision 15 kids going to camp for a week and it helps create a bigger feeling of satisfaction for the donor.

4.  Use a real signature. Digital signatures are easy and eliminate hand signing a stack of letters.  But savvy donors know the difference between a digital signature and a live one.  Have your President or Executive Director sign the letters, or ask a volunteer to sign them on his or her behalf. And use a blue pen so that donors can clearly tell it is a real signature.

5.  Add personal notes to the letters. Have your Executive Director or President go through the letters and add personal notes.  This can bring big rewards in terms of stewarding donors!  Taking a few minutes of a busy day to go through a stack of letters may seem like a chore to your boss, but donors who get a Thank You letter with a personal note will be thrilled that the head staff person took the time to personally acknowledge his or her gift.

6.  Include cumulative giving data. Hopefully you have this information in your donor tracking software and can get to it easily.  Sometimes donors forget when they last gave.  Including year-to-date information can be a gentle reminder for them of their giving.

7.  Make it clear if the letter is also a receipt. Don’t you hate getting boring Thank You letters that drone on and never clearly spell out the gift you made? (By the way, if you aren’t giving to other organizations, you need to.  It’s a great way to put yourself in the donor’s shoes and also lets you see how other organizations handle the thank you process.)  If you have to, draw a line on the page below the thank you text and put “Gift Receipt” about the actual gift information. This will make things crystal clear for the donor and eliminate confusion.  It will also reduce the number of calls and emails you get from donors saying they never got a receipt.

8.  Include an offer for a tour. Always include in your Thank You letter an offer for a guided tour of your facility or program site (if appropriate).  Chances are good that you’ll get a few people who want to visit you.  Seeing firsthand the work that you do may make all the difference in the world to a particular donor.  It can also mean the difference in an average size gift and a major gift. Even if you never have anyone take you up on this, they will remember that you offered, and that matters.

I remember one particular donor who came for a tour of my organization with his wife.  They had always been good givers and usually gave about $10,000 a year.  They were so impressed by the tour that they wrote a check on the spot for an additional $10,000!

9.  Give the donor a contact. Include the name and contact info of someone the donor can call with questions. Donors want to be able to call and talk to a real, live, knowledgeable person when they have questions.  So be sure to include the name and phone number in your Thank You letters of someone who can answer questions for them.

 8 Must Have Tools For Your Fundraising Toolkit

Have you ever heard this phrase?


“When the only thing you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”


It’s true. Sometimes we get one tool – one skill, one talent – and out of habit, we stick with it.


If you want to raise enough money to fully fund your programs, you need to use more than one tool. And you need to use the right tools.


So, what tools do you need? Here are 8 that should be sharpened and ready to go in your fundraising toolbox.

  1. Clear, magnetic vision. You need a big, hairy, audacious goal to attract tons of attention and support for your cause. It needs to be something that challenges status quo and stirs people’s hearts. It should be easy to understand and you need to be able to articulate it well. For example, if you work for a food bank, a clear, magnetic vision might be to end hunger in your community. If you work for an animal shelter, how about becoming no kill? The most important thing is that it’s BIG. No one wants to support a mediocre vision.
  2. Hooky elevator speech. An elevator speech is meant to be something quick that you can share that tells someone what your organization does. It’s not meant to tell everything, but just enough that they start asking questions and want to know more. And it’s not meant to be a memorized mission statement (most mission statements are vague meaningless crap). For example, Habitat for Humanity might say “we make sure that everyone has a safe, decent, affordable place to live.” Notice there’s no jargon. It takes some work to create a hooky elevator speech and the result is well worth it.
  3. Heart-warming human-interest stories. You must have stories ready to share about people whose lives have been significantly impacted by the work your nonprofit does. Donors and prospects want to know that your organization makes a difference, and the best way to show that is to tell a story. Good stories show a dramatic difference in the ‘before’ and ‘after,’ and move people to ask questions, make a donation, or get involved. Facts tell, stories sell.
  4. Visitor-friendly website. People will check you out online before they make a gift, so be ready for them. Your website needs to be warm and engaging with plenty of stories, photos, video, and blank space. Long, dry, boring text will run people off, so avoid it at all costs! Look at your website with a newbie’s eye – what would you notice if you knew nothing about the organization? Can you easily tell what the organization does? Is it easy to make a donation? Keep information updated and easy to scan.
  5. Detailed activity calendar. It’s easier to raise money when you’re proactive instead of reactive. Most nonprofits have no plan for fundraising. They do whatever they’ve always done without putting enough thought and strategy behind it. And they tend to deal with the crisis du jour instead of working purposefully on things that will move them forward toward their goals. A calendar of fundraising activities, including grant deadlines, newsletter send-out dates, and donor touches will get you on the path to raising all the money you need to fully fund your programs. And most importantly, get it out of your head and on paper!
  6.  Meaningful budget. This seems obvious, but it amazes me how many nonprofits have no budget. Or it doesn’t have enough detail to mean anything. Not only do you need a budget for your entire organization, but you need one for each program or project you’re raising money for. It’s tough to build trust and ask for a gift if you don’t know how much something costs.
  7. Impact numbers. Every nonprofit has a few key numbers that will deliver a big impact when they’re shared. They’re usually related to outcome measurement and they help people understand the need you’re addressing. Impact numbers include the number of people you’re serving or who need your help and the cost to provide one unit of service.  For example, if you work for a food bank, you might share that 1 out of every 3 kids in your area is going hungry. Or that it costs you 27 cents to feed a hungry person. These specific numbers paint a picture in the minds of your donors and prospects, and show them how you’re making a difference.
  8. Donor/prospect list. Here’s another one that seems obvious, yet it’s not common. Most people working in fundraising make the mistake of thinking that everyone in the community is a potential donor.  And it’s just not true. First, not everyone gives to charity. Of those who do, they have their favorites, and they’re not likely to change. Create an Ideal Donor Profile to help you better understand who you’re looking for, so you can find them easily and in large numbers. Once someone becomes a donor, remember their name. Nothing builds trust faster than believing you’re important enough to be remembered. This is especially true for your major donors. If you have to, make a list of your top donors and keep it with you all the time.

Any carpenter knows that the right tool will make the job easy. And good quality tools in good condition are a joy to use. Keep your fundraising tools sharp and everything will get easier.

unnamed 1 The Key to Successful Fundraising is in the Follow Up

It’s a big deal when someone makes a gift to your nonprofit. Even a small donation shows that someone cared enough to take the time to give you money.

I hope you never get so big that you forget how every dollar counts. And every donor matters.

When a donor makes a gift, it’s a good thing. It shows how much they care about your work.

When a donor makes repeated gifts, and supports you year after year, it should be celebrated. This is a high compliment to you and shows how much they trust you with their money. After all, they wouldn’t keep giving if they didn’t feel confident that you can handle the money well.

So, how do you keep them giving?

It’s all about the follow up.


The key to creating loyal donors is following up with them to let them know what you’ve done with their money. You can accomplish this through a letter, a newsletter, social media, and more. One really common way to report back to your donors is with an annual report.

The real trick to an annual report is to keep it concise and interesting.  There’s no need for you to blather on about how great and wonderful your nonprofit is. Just get to the juicy stuff and show them how many lives have been changed by the work your organization does.

Check out this short video for more ideas about creating a power-packed annual report.

sp137 90617bd5 1346 4c80 8c7d 974b4777e7dc v2 Are There Too Many Nonprofits Competing for Donations?
It happens to everyone.


At some point, you’ll take your eye off the prize long enough to realize there are lots of other nonprofits out there, and they’re all asking for money, just like you.


It’s easy to worry. “What if more people give to them instead of us? Their cause is sexier than ours!”


Should you worry about competing with established nonprofits? 


The answer is simple – No.  There’s enough money out there for everyone.


If everyone who gives to charity simply gave 1% more, we’d all be swimming in resources!  Instead of worrying about competitors, focus on increasing your giving 1%.


You must ditch the small thinking.


Worrying about competition comes from a negative money mindset. It comes from a line of thinking that assumes there’s a winner and a loser. When someone else wins, you lose.


You’re likely comparing your nonprofit to others, and from the outside, lots of groups look really successful. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that they’re better than you or doing better work than you or more deserving of someone’s donation.


You have to stop.


Focus on the lives that are being changed because of the work your nonprofit does. Believe in what you’re doing and others will too.


 Not too long ago, there was a story in the news of a million dollar gift given to the local university.  Many smaller nonprofits told me they were feeling depressed about it.  They want to receive that level of gift, but weren’t sure they ever could.


I certainly understand, but here’s the truth about competition among nonprofits:  People give to organizations and causes they care about. 


Your job is to keep doing business as usual in your Development office and know that, if anything, this proves that there is plenty of money out there to be donated.  Don’t worry about what another organization is doing – stay focused on your dreams, your vision, your goals, and your plan.


The best thing you can do is to continue to build relationships with your donors.  Keep getting to know them.  Keep taking them to lunch.  Keep sending handwritten notes.  Keep learning about them and why they care about your organization. Keep giving them a good experience with your nonprofit.


And don’t be afraid of any other organization’s success.  In fact, be grateful.  When individuals feel the rush from making a large gift, it usually encourages them to want to do it again. Next time, it could be you receiving a large gift!

unnamed 7 Simple Steps To Successful Fundraising

Some days, fundraising can be overwhelming.


There are so many gurus telling you what you should be doing. Learn Facebook ads. Write better grants. Don’t mess up your next appeal.


It’s hard to know where to start.


What you should be asking is what really works?


And what will work for your organization at this moment in time?


Let’s make this simple. Fundraising is about engaging people in the work your nonprofit is doing.  It’s not about selling candy bars or having a golf tournament.  It’s about giving people the chance to make a gift and feel good about it, knowing they are changing lives and making a difference in the world.  This is donor-based fundraising at its best, and it provides long-term sustainability to nonprofit organizations.


Here are 7 simple steps you can take to raise big money for your nonprofit.


1. Make fundraising a priority.  Don’t just say you want to raise money, commit to it. Carve out time every day to work on it. This isn’t something you can do when you have time.  You must be organized and prepared when it comes to fundraising so that you can maximize your efforts. You must have a plan and work it. You can’t be successful if you’re reacting to whatever falls in your lap from day to day.


2. Understand why people give.  People give for lots of different reasons – usually because they want to help, they are moved by your mission, or they want to give back.  Mostly it’s because someone asked.  Giving is an emotional act, backed up by logic.  That’s why so many nonprofits understand how to play up the emotional side of their work, to pluck a prospect’s heart strings. When you understand the emotion behind the gifts that come to your organization, your messaging will likely be more effective.


3. Identify the best donor prospect. This may hurt your feelings, but not everyone will care about your mission.  And not everyone will give.  Even if you are very passionate about the work your nonprofit does, not everyone else will be.  So, it’s best to get focused on those people who are likely to care about what your nonprofit is about.  Start by getting clear on who is most likely to support your nonprofit.  What do your current donors or volunteers have in common? Look at both demographics and psychographics, and create a profile. Once you understand your ideal donor, it’s much easier to go find others just like them.


4. Tell your story. Telling your story is key to fundraising, but what is your story?  It’s who your nonprofit is and what you are doing to change the world.  It’s about the lives you are changing (or saving).  And it must be told in a way that’s easily understandable and meaningful to your ideal donor prospect.  That means you must use simple language, leave out the jargon, and keep it short. When you tell a compelling story, people will take action.  They’ll make a gift or sign up to volunteer, and isn’t that what you really want?


5. Plan how and when you will ask for a gift. This is the nitty-gritty part of fundraising! It’s best to be proactive, using well thought-out fundraising strategies, and not reacting to whatever comes along. Fundraising by default is never successful. Plan how, when, who, and what for every fundraising activity you undertake. And document it in a written plan to guide your activities so you know where you’re headed. After all, if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.


6. Acknowledge and steward the gift.  This may actually be the most important part of fundraising, yet the part that most nonprofits don’t get right.  And it’s quite simple: Thank your donor promptly, warmly, and sincerely every time.  In order to feel comfortable giving again, your donor must feel really good about giving to you. Watch how you’re communicating with the donor and make sure that everything you do builds trust. It’s the foundation of good relationships.


7. Evaluate success and Get Fully Funded.  Be sure to track where money is being spent, and where money is being raised so that you know what’s working for you. Then continue doing those things that work, and stop doing those that don’t.  This means that you may have to stop doing an annual event because it just isn’t worth the investment of time and money you’re putting into it. 

Once you get these basics in place, fundraising becomes easier, and your confidence will increase with each successful activity.


Want more help? The Get Fully Funded system is designed to help you put the key pieces of donor-based fundraising in place.

  • It’s easy to use
  • Contains dozens of checklists and worksheets to simplify things
  • Comes with lifetime support with a membership to the Get Fully Funded Club. In the Club, you’ll find a community of others just like you who are working to build annual fundraising, and you’ll get monthly webinars to keep you moving forward toward raising the money of your dreams.

It’s like getting everything you wish you had but didn’t know you wanted to help you raise more money than you thought possible. Read more and get yours at


Everything slows down in the summer, right? After all, they’re known as the “lazy days of summer.”unnamed 10 Summer Activities to Ignite Your Fall Fundraising

I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember the last time ANYTHING in my world slowed down. (I might have been 6 years old!)

When the warm days roll around, and co-workers start heading out on vacation, it’s tempting to slow down. You may be thinking that there’s no point in making phone calls – no one is home. You can’t do much, so you may as well coast.


The things you do now will create your fundraising results 6 months from now.

Don’t slack off unless you want to have a miserable holiday season. Consistency is key. The more regular you are in spreading the word and building relationships, the more trust you build with your donors and supporters. People love those that they can count on.

So, what should you be doing now?

Here are 10 fundraising activities that will set you up for big success this Fall:

1.  Evaluate your numbers so far this year.  What’s working? What’s not? The results will help you decide what to tweak for the second half of the year, and point you toward the things you should be spending time on. Look at where your donations are coming from, what strategies have been successful, and what additional resources you might need for Fall.  Time spent in evaluation can pay off big later.

2.  Create themes for your Fall appeal and newsletter. This little bit of prework can save you a ton of time later. It’s a lot easier to write a letter or a newsletter article if you have at least a general idea of what you want to say. Choose a theme that helps your donor feel something that moves them to want to give. Remember – it’s about them, not you.

3.  Get a jumpstart on planning your next event. Lay out a timeline for your next dinner or golf tournament, update your sponsorship levels, talk to media sponsors, and generally get moving. Events are best when they aren’t thrown together at the last minute.

4.  Spend time researching new grant opportunities. A couple of hours spent perusing the Foundation Center database or Guidestar can reveal new grant opportunities that you might be able to turn into new dollars for programs. Make sure the ones you pursue are a hand-in-glove fit with your programs and follow their guidelines to the letter.

5.  Expand your speaking schedule. Reach out to the civic clubs in town and see if you can get on their program schedule. Public speaking is one of the best ways to spread the word about your cause and get in front of ideal donor prospects. Check with your local library or Chamber of Commerce to see if they have a list of area clubs.

6.  Pitch a story to your local media. Getting on television or in the newspaper is still a great way to let lots of people know what your nonprofit is up to. It also helps build credibility for your organization, and can help you recruit new volunteers or supporters. The key is to pitch an interesting story that media folks will be interested in.

7.  Capture photos and stories of lives you’re changing. You should always be on the lookout for stories from the front lines that you can use to inspire your donors. Photos are even better. A few hours can reap big rewards and bring you lots of new material for your communications. Be sure to get releases for both and protect privacy where you can.

8.  Fellowship with program staff. Spend time with your coworkers to find out how things are going. You may get some insight into trends they’re seeing that you can share with donors. The time you spend builds relationships with coworkers, which will pay off BIG later.

9.  Take Board members to lunch. The better you know your Board members, the easier it is to engage them in meaningful activities. You’ll find out what they’re interested in and comfortable with, which will help you point them to tasks that are a good fit for them.  A happy Board member is a productive Board member, and who doesn’t need more of those?

10.  Organize your office. Spend a little time catching up on your filing and putting things away. You don’t have time to spend searching for things, so get organized while you have a chance.

Look carefully at every nonprofit you consider really successful.  I bet they each have a clear vision they are working to achieve. And I bet it’s something impressive. Maybe they’re working to eliminate illiteracy in their community, or find homes for every homeless animal. Whatever their vision it’s something that people can easily imagine in their minds, understand the impact, and get behind.

It’s called a BHAG.

A Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) goes beyond a nonprofit’s reason for existence. Your mission statement may express why the organization was created, but a big vision excites people with its big impact.  I like to say ‘play big or go home!’ I mean, if a nonprofit exists, it should have as big an impact as possible. After all, what’s the point of working so hard if your organization it isn’t going to do something very worthwhile?

It doesn’t matter what kind of services you offer, a BHAG will set you apart from the mediocre nonprofits in town. Your nonprofit will be the one in your community that’s up to something special and attracts all the movers and shakers to serve on the Board and support fundraising campaigns.  Your BHAG will make you different in the donors’ minds.  Instead of being one of dozens of boring nonprofits, you’ll be the fresh, exciting one doing something that really matters.

A BHAG is a goal so bold that it stretches your nonprofit to work toward it and reach it. Your staff get excited about it and work together to make it happen. You may have to change the way you are doing some things to become more efficient or more effective. Your big vision should give you goosebumps when you talk about it with others. It may event scare you a little. And its impact will be profound and significant in the community, changing many lives.  

Here are some specific reasons you should create and commit to a BHAG:

  • A big vision attracts supporters.  A BHAG is very interesting to donors. No one wants to support something mediocre. And people don’t want to get involved with something that even remotely looks like a sinking ship! Instead, donors love a group that is passionately championing a cause and changing the status quo.  People like helping make something magical and wonderful happen, especially when it has long-lasting impact. When your BHAG sets peoples’ hearts on fire, they will give and likely give big gifts to help your big vision become a reality.
  • A big vision creates the foundation for strategic and operational plans. One of my favorite stories is from “Alice in Wonderland” where Alice meets the Cheshire Cat and asks him for help. “Where do you want to go?” the Cat asks.  “I don’t much care,” says Alice. “Then any road will get you there” responds the Cat.  It’s the same thing with planning.  Without a BHAG to shine a light on the destination you want to reach, it’s going to be tough to get there.  You could wander aimlessly as an organization, dabbling in programs, helping a few people along the way, but never really having much of an impact. Your BHAG will provide the destination so that you can create the roadmap to get there. It sets the stage for the plans that are needed to fulfill the vision.
  • A big vision shifts you from being reactive to being proactive. When you know very clearly where your nonprofit is heading and you create plans to get there, you know exactly what to do every day.  Gone are the days when you spend your time putting out fires. A clear vision gives you a yardstick to measure your activities by.  For example, if your BHAG is to eliminate hunger in your community, then you can look at each item on your “To Do” list and ask yourself “Does this get us closer to eliminating hunger?” If the answer is yes, you do the task.  If not, mark it off your list because you don’t need to spend your time on it.

Your BHAG should be compelling. When you talk about it in the community, people should start asking lots of questions to better understand it (this usually indicates their interest in supporting it!).  Your big vision should be easy to explain and easy to understand. You shouldn’t have to work hard to describe what you’re trying to do.

Most importantly, everyone in a leadership position in your organization, both staff and Board, should participate in creating the vision and supporting it. If you are missing consensus about your BHAG, go back and try again.  You don’t want any bad apples pulling everyone else down while you’re working to achieve something of this importance.

Ready to create your BHAG?  It’s not so hard to do. Gather up your nonprofit’s leaders and key people and think about the biggest thing you’d like to accomplish as an organization.  Start by brainstorming a few ideas. Talk them over and choose one to work toward. Decide that you’re willing to commit to it and make it happen, knowing that it could take time and effort and money to accomplish. And then do whatever it takes to make it happen.

Your BHAG will get you moving on the path to becoming one of the hottest nonprofits in town!

Want more help with a BHAG? Join me for a new training called “5 Simple Secrets of Fully-Funded Nonprofits” on July 15. You’ll learn what it takes to raise all the money you need to fund your BHAG. Get all the info and register at

By: Sandy Rees

I have a theory about nonprofit Boards. Most small nonprofits have people on their Boards who don’t understand what they’ve said “yes” to. They don’t know what they’re supposed to do as a Board member, and in the absence of knowledge, they do whatever looks fun or familiar.

Board Meeting 300x225 Four Steps to Engaging Your Board
That leaves the door wide open for them to get too involved in the day-to-day operations and micromanage, or step too far back and do absolutely nothing, placing way too much trust in the staff to make everything work. Neither scenario is healthy for the organization and can lead to a number of problems, which impede the organization’s ability to fulfill its mission.

All the while, the staff is looking to Board members to help them move the nonprofit forward, expecting them to help raise money, lead strategic planning, and lots more things that Boards are supposed to do.

The problem is that the staff usually knows more about what a Board is supposed to do than the Board does. And if you think about it, it makes sense. Staff members typically attend way more trainings and workshops than Board members do.  They read newsletters and blogs. And they have a greater understanding of their role versus the Board’s role.

[tweetthis url=""]It’s easy to forget that most Boards simply haven’t had the chance to learn about their job. And they don’t know what they don’t know. [/tweetthis]

Fortunately, there’s a simple solution. Educate them.

If your Board doesn’t know what their job is, you’ve got to teach them. You probably know more about what they need to do than anyone else, so it’s up to you to get the ball rolling.

People aren’t suddenly endowed with knowledge just because they say “yes” to being on a Board. Stop expecting them to know everything they need to know to do their job.  Most people want to do the right thing, but if they don’t know what that is, there’s the potential for problems, miscommunication, and more.

Don’t blame them, shame them, or guilt them. Just help them understand their role and set them up for success.

I remember playing the blame game with my Board when I was a Development Director. I’d attend workshops where the presenter would tell us that our Board should be helping with fundraising. Then I’d go back and expect Board members to rise to the occasion. What I didn’t understand was that they didn’t know how. Some of them were flat out scared to ask anyone for money, and most of them were resistant to the idea.

So, how do you get your Board on board?


  • Get them some training. One day a year spent in learning or refreshing themselves about their job can be a day very well spent. If you can’t carve out a whole day, spend 10 minutes at each Board meeting going over one of their basic roles.


  • Inspire them.  Share with them some heart-warming stories about the lives that are being changed by the work your nonprofit is doing. Don’t assume they already know.  If they only show up to a monthly Board meeting, they’re likely to forget a lot in between those meetings. Help them remember.


  • Treat your Board as individuals. Think of them and work with them one at a time. When you think of them as a group, it’s easy to generalize, which doesn’t help anything. Remember: One size does NOT fit all! This is why you won’t get 100% response when you ask your Board to sell tickets to your event. Not everyone feels comfortable doing it and when people lack confidence in their ability to do a task, they won’t do it.


  • Work in baby steps. Give them small tasks to complete instead of big projects. Even though they are the leaders of your nonprofit, they are volunteers and may not have large amounts of time to give you. Ask them to complete small tasks and you’ll be much more likely to get the result you want.

It’s easy to get impatient or resentful toward your Board. You look to them for leadership and guidance, and chances are good they will disappoint you from time to time. Just remember that you can accept the current situation and be frustrated with your Board, or you can take steps to change it.